By Lyra Bordelon
The Seneca Health Services team is hitting the streets in cities across Greenbrier County in order to distribute an overdose preventing medicine and recovery literature. On Wednesday, May 5, the team came to Rupert.
Certified Peer Recovery Support Specialist Jo Chestnut and Quick Response Team (QRT) leader Richard Martin explained that despite the rain, the clinic is looking to distribute Narcan, a drug that can stop an opioid overdose as it happens, to as many people as possible.
“We’re just trying to distribute naloxone and Narcan in the community in Greenbrier County to help save lives from the opioid overdose epidemic,” Martin said. “Since the pandemic began, overdoses have risen dramatically, around 31, 36 percent. We got a surplus of the injectable stuff and now we’ve been going around to Alderson, Ronceverte, White Sulphur, here. We’re going around wherever we can and handing it out to as many people as we can. Just this, no harm reduction.”
“There have been several overdoses in the county and several overdose deaths,” said Chestnut. “We’ve got all of this and I thought it would be best to get as much out as possible at this point. We’re just losing so many people.”
Both reflected on the people they’ve known personally that Greenbrier County has lost. As part of the Quick Response Team, Martin follows up with overdose calls received by 911, offering them resources and information. Many times, this interaction leads them to develop the needed relationships to get people into recovery.
“We see them weekly and sometimes we get the phone call. They didn’t make it through,” Martin said. “It bothers you. You develop a relationship with these people and you’re hoping to get them into treatment. Some people we’ve gotten into treatment, then they relapse, then we get that phone call. What I do is go out after overdoses to see people and try to give them supplies and try to get them into treatment.”
In a previous interview, Martin emphasized the role of chemical addiction, wishing the general public would read more about how addiction happens, and the current mystery around why some people can take a drug once or twice and never do it again, while others struggle with it for their entire lives. Although some studies have linked genetics and mental illness to the potential for developing addiction issues, it can strike nearly anyone and has affected nearly all families in the United States in some way.
Joined by Amanda Eltzroth and Scott McGee, the Rupert Clinic distributed over 180 boxes of Narcan to the Rupert area, looking to save lives.
“We did 118 in Alderson, we did 90-some in White Sulphur, we did 40 above Lewisburg,” Martin said. “Last Saturday we worked with the Fayette County Coalition and we did 500. That was for the whole county, not just for one area.”
Of the two people that passed in under ten minutes, one woman noted she her daughter uses and it scares her. As she signed up for a Narcan dose, she explained that her daughter previously got treatment, but then fell back to using.
“That happens to people,” Martin told her. “We can see her again, she’s not barred. A lot of people relapse and we meet up with them and get them started again.”
“If they could see the shape they’re in when they’re like that,” the woman said. “But I appreciate this. Thank you so much.”
Those looking for help can reach out to Seneca Health Services online at shsinc.org, or by calling 304-872-6503.
“We can help them with that [not having financial resources],” Chestnut said, “We can help them get Medicaid if they don’t have insurance, we can help get them into sober living homes where they can work. That’s what a lot of them want to do, go somewhere and work and build their life back up. … There’s a lot of resources out there but people don’t know they’re available, so they never use them. I’m sure there’s a lot we don’t know, but there are a lot we do know. We can help them get in touch with the right people.”
Despite the grim outlook exasperated by a pandemic, the team refuses to give up.
“You can’t save everybody and we know that, but you try to save as many as we can,” Martin said. “We will not stop, no matter what the cities tell us or what the politicians say. We’re going to try to save lives. We’re not going to give up.”
“We’re all in recovery too as well,” Chestnut said. “Not only are we handing out naloxone, we’re handing out recovery resources to let them know there are people out here that care about them. Not everybody knows that there’s recovery out there to help them.
“We’re also examples,” Martin said. ”We show recovery does work. It takes a little work, but recovery is possible.”